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Ingenuity helicopter's Mars flight delayed again while NASA updates software

NASA says it'll set a new flight date next week.

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- 01:24
An artist's concept of NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter taking flight.

An artist's concept of NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter taking flight.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

We'll still have to wait a bit longer to see a helicopter flying around on Mars. NASA has again postponed the Ingenuity Mars helicopter's first experimental flight, which was originally set for Sunday, April 11.  

The flight initially got pushed back to no earlier than April 14 due to a safety alert during a high-speed spin test of Ingenuity's rotors on Friday, two days before the scheduled inaugural voyage. Ingenuity's flight control software will get a minor modification and reinstallation, NASA said in a statement Monday, and the agency will set a flight date next week. 

During Friday's rotor test, "the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a 'watchdog' timer expiration," NASA said in a status update. "This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from 'Pre-Flight' to 'Flight' mode."

The agency added that the watchdog timer "oversees the command sequence and alerts the system to any potential issues. It helps the system stay safe by not proceeding if an issue is observed."

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After considering multiple solutions over the weekend, NASA identified a software update as the best way forward. But the update may take some time. 

"This software update will modify the process by which the two flight controllers boot up, allowing the hardware and software to safely transition to the flight state," NASA explained. 

When Ingenuity eventually winds up flying, it'll be the first time humans have achieved powered, controlled flight on another planet. The experimental copter, carried to Mars by NASA's Perseverance rover, could open up a whole new way to explore other worlds.